Next time it is back in town for an extended period, maybe Congress can investigate how much taxpayers have laid out, in dollars and people-hours, to prep for the sequestration that is going to save all that money.
The House and Senate, which has already had a fair number of time-outs (a.k.a. district work periods) did put in some long hours last week. While it often works a 3-day TWT (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) schedule, folks on Capitol Hill buckled down last week. They didn’t adjourn until 3 p.m. If you doubt the existence of the TWT Club, check out the free parking area (for members of Congress) at Reagan National Airport. From early Thursday to late Monday evenings, it is usually filled with cars with easily distinguishable license plates.
For a number of months, most federal agencies have been drawing up blueprints, contingency proposals, furlough plans, cost estimates, etc., of what sequestration will do. How will it work? How can the government save money, without wasting more in some other area? All for an event that may, at the last minute, be canceled or delayed.
During the run-up to the November election, most federal agencies were quiet about sequestration or any downsides to it. The administration downplayed the need for government contractors to issue 30- and 60-day furlough warning letters to government contractors. Not to worry, was the order of the day!
Since then, factions in both parties and various special-interest groups have done little but point out the folly of across-the-board cuts. How wasteful and maybe even dangerous they might be. And the attendant problems, political and psychological, of furloughing many federal workers one day per week. They wonder why more people aren’t worrying a lot more.
Some politicians genuinely believe the cuts are necessary, including the furloughs. They scoff at the idea that it would financially hurt many communities outside Washington who depend on the federal dollar even more than we do.
Critics of sequestration say the furloughs could close parts of national parks, and curtail vital government services — the kind that almost everybody agrees we need.
Last Friday, we asked feds what furloughs would mean to them and to the public. Lots of comments. Starting with these two:
“…Airplanes depend on Air Traffic Control to get timely changes to regulated routes to allow more planes to fly. If more fly without those changes, planes will suffer midair collisions. Trucks depend on DOT licensing to ensure drivers know how to ride them. With more truck accidents possible, commutes will snarl more, and chain reactions could lead to more car accidents. Boats depend on up-to-date charting to know when channel dredging is done so they can use deeper water, and where previous shipwrecks happened, and if buoys go out of commission. Without those coming in a timely fashion, more Exxon Valdezes could happen even without a drunk ship captain. Food and drug testing to make sure that food is safe to eat, and new drugs can be introduced to react to newly drug resistant diseases [would be affected]. Without timely testing, the next plague could happen sooner. Without timely testing, more foods will carry bacteria we can’t digest. Furloughing will mean employees involved in each of these won’t have enough [of a] workforce to ensure events that need to be timely are, and we all suffer.”
“Less air traffic controllers will mean a backup in flights, not crashes. Planes simply will not be allowed to fly. DOT licensing slow-down will mean longer waiting lines to be certified, not crashes. Uncertified drivers won’t drive — freight companies wouldn’t risk the liability costs. Sea food inspection by NOAA and Commerce, if not performed, means products can’t be listed as inspected. Slowdown in seafood to market. Guess I’ll stock up on frozen.”
MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIOWork time spent on union activities at a 7-year high for feds The amount of time federal employees spend working on union activities while on the job is at its highest rate in seven years. Federal employees, on average, spent 2.82 hours on union-related work in fiscal 2011 as compared to 2.61 hours in 2010, according to a new report from the Office of Personnel Management.
Sequestration causing planning headaches for agency managers With sequestration set to go into effect in less than two weeks, agencies are intensifying their planning for the automatic, across-the-board cuts. But that’s no easy task for agency managers, who are faced with competing priorities and compressed deadlines, according to two federal-budget experts.
House votes to extend pay freeze for fed workers The House voted Friday to extend a pay freeze for federal workers, already in effect for more than two years, for another nine months. Republicans, who largely backed the measure, said it would save $11 billion in the long run and that economically secure public servants could go a little longer without a raise.